2010 Review of Books…Review…Part 2

Cover of "World War Z: An Oral History of...
Cover via Amazon

As promised, here is the continuation of my 2010 review of books review 2:

  1. After Light – Alex Scarrow Sometimes I browse the virtual shelves of Amazon like some kind of bookworm curbcrawler; chasing links, lists and recommendations down rabbit holes and blind alleys in the hope that I’ll find something good. Most of the time I end up with charity-shop quality backroom box-fillers but occassionally I discover: After Light is a schizophrenic mix of lighter-than-air airport fiction and a sobering glimpse of a future world scenario – that the world oil supply could be cut off. The fallout from this fictional event is truly frightening and makes one want to hit the canned section of your local supermarket or get some chickens or something. There’s not much to not like about this book; the characters behave in credible and believable ways, the plot is breakneck and unpredictable and the premise is a total hook. The dialogue is a bit hackneyed and sometimes the characters feel like props for the idea…but I finished it in about a week. Overall: a page turner! 8/10
  2. World War Z – Max Brooks I was playing a lot of Left 4 Dead 2 on’t Xbox recently – you know, fending off zombie clowns with guitars whilst emptying a clip into the hoarde – and this came up as a related search on Amazon. World War Z is a collection of interviews and accounts of how the world responded to hoardes of the undead – the infected – how government tried to control the pandemic, contain the pandemic and then ulitmately consolidate in the most heartless and logical way possible. It initially starts as a bit of fun but before long you start to hear a ring of truth: the Chinese try to cover it up, the US chuck ordinance at it, the Koreans go silent, the Israelis factionalise and you start to see that if the zombie apocalypse were to take place we would be very quickly fucked. Anway, another book that after a whiles makes you consider hitting the canned produce aisle and practicing your machete skills. Overall: A silly idea made credible and thrilling. 9/10
  3. Savages – Don Winslow It is lost in the mists of time why I bought this book, but I do know for certain that I didn’t nick it. This is one of those books told with a fractured narrative (which basically consists of: Dale entered the room. Room: dark. Gun. Shot. Broken silence…dust <new paragraph> motes. Dale sat up. Thought: <new chapter> Mother had pink dusters, not yellow like everyone else. The release. They came. The night was alight. Stars. You know? All that wank.) which I normally hate with rabid ferocity. Why make reading hard? It’s like putting broken glass into your ski boots. However, hidden behind this prose-de-Hoxton is a very, very good thriller indeed. You have to bend your head to read the bloody book, but once you get past that it’s actually not too bad. Overall: written by a semi-imbecile, but a great thriller 6/10
  4. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human – Richard Wrangham Just to show that I am not the reading equivalent of Peter André (if he can read, that is) I read this earlier on in the year. This book argues that without cooking we would have not have evolved from apes to hom0-erectus (easy, now…). His argument is very thorough and logical and ultimately you realise that without cooking we would be without energy, the ability to survive through harsh winters, have social networks or domesticated animals. His research is exhaustive and it is a fascinating book. He writes in quite a dry, academic style, but the subject matter is so interesting that this minor fault becomes moot. Overall: Proof that Jamie Oliver is, in fact, human. 7/10
  5. Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin When two people write a book together you know one thing for certain: someone cannot write for shit. That person is Greg Mortenson. Greg is an ex-climber who, after a disastrous accent of K2, decides to get all NGO and build a school in a tiny Pakistan village in a bid to repay the kindness shown to him by it’s inhabitants. The rest of the book is part fawning, deification of Greg; part sub karate kid homilies spewed from any peasant he meets aged over 50 and part Grand Designs with concrete. I think it is inherent that Greg is a good bloke, with a good heart who has balls as big as space hoppers – that much is obvious because of the nature of his projects – but I found it tiresome to be reminded of this fact every couple of pages or so. At the end of the book – which is not terribly well written or cohesive – I felt I would never like to meet Mr Mortenson or have ‘three cups of tea’ with him because he comes across as ever so slightly patronising and ever so slightly egotistical and ever so slightly pompous. Overall: great cause, bad book 3/10
  6. No Time for Goodbye – Linwood Barclay I think I bought this in a charity shop because I felt guilty about dropping in a box of books that were so bad that they had spit marks of contempt on the opening pages of each and every one of them. No Time for Goodbye is a thriller, pure and simple. It requires a basic grasp of the English language, the ability to sit on one’s arse, a half decent memory and not much else. Does that mean it’s a bad book? No. I think writing a thriller as ‘thrilling’ as this is difficult; to keep the reader engaged as this does is hard and Linwood (school must have been hard with a name like that…) pulls this particular trick off with aplomb. Simply, this is about a girl’s family who go missing without signs of a struggle or leaving a note…in a kind of creepy way. Overall: Awesome! 9/10

That’s the lot. I obviously read more than this, but some were dull, some I couldn’t even remember if I read them or not (never a good sign, IMHO) and some I have given / thrown away / lent and cannot remember the titles of. I also bought a couple of cookbooks (which don’t really count) and some coffee-table books which are the bound equivalent of Athena posters.

I also started lots of books and decided life was too short to read something I am clearly not enjoying and started a couple which made me think: I could write better stories than this when I was 13. I have always had a dream of being a published author and reading some of these books gives me faith that I may well achieve that if I just simplify my language, create 1 dimensional, cliched characters; develop tenuous yet incredible plots and write with no style or wit. I am sometimes shocked at how bloody bad some books can be and how amazing the back cover description masks that fact. Anyway, here are some on the bookshelf of shame:

  1. Shire Hell – Rachael Johnson I’d rather read my own obituary than this. Reads like it was written by a ten old who watched Countryfile a couple of times and then peopled it with the cast of Crossroads. Overall: Shite Hell 0/10
  2. Net Force – Tom Clancy I like a bit of escapism, but not at the expense of my intellect, pride or self respect. I still feel deeply ashamed that I read 8 (count ’em) pages of this turgid crap. Overall: Net Farce 0/10
  3. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert It’s easy to eat, pray and love when you have no mortgage, kids or family who give a monkey’s toss about you, isn’t it? Total bollocks. Now made into a very bad film – what a surprise! Overall: Shirley Valentine if she was a pain in the bloody arse, rich and gormless 1/10
  4. The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment – Isobel Losada This is what happens when someone has contacts in the publishing world but no actual talent for writing, you know, books. Overall: The Old Kent Road to Bad Literature. 0/10
  5. Banged Up – Ronnie Thompson Sample: So I was banged up in the nick and ‘e said: ‘oi! Slag!’ So I punched ‘im in the face. ‘Wanker!’ ‘e said…so I punched ‘im in the face. Then I escaped from the nick and did some robbin’ and punched everyone in the face and I was nicked again. Rinse and repeat. Overall: Prison library only. 1/10



14 thoughts on “2010 Review of Books…Review…Part 2

  1. am enjoying Alex Scarrow at the mo…thought you might like this app “booksapp” for keeping track of books you’ve lent out…or just because scanning the barcode of your books and seeing them pop up in your phone is just fun and timewasting

    1. The depressing thing is that I actually finished Eat, Pray, Love. I was hoping for some kind of grand revelation; that she had discovered something that filled the vacuum. But no. She found a bloke and didn’t get married. I could have given her that advice at the start of the book and saved us all a load of trouble.

  2. SO rude!! The only books I’ve read from this list are Eat Pray Love (which I thought was fab – a girl is allowed to dream right?!) and Banged Up which I thought was wicked too. Its gritty and makes prison out to be a shite hole but he reforms and it all ends well!

  3. Spooky! I have that Alex Scarrow one on my Amazon wishlist hopefully awaiting my birthday…

    I feel quite proud that I haven’t read anything from your shelves of shame.

    I have read ‘No Time to Say Goodbye’ though, and would concur that it is a ‘rattling good read’.

    On my shelves of shame/shit is anything by Matthew Reilly, who makes Andy McNab read like a Booker Prize winner (not that all of them are riveting good reads mind you.) All of Mr Reilly’s books are written in VERY short chapters, nearly every second sentence is written with italics or followed by copious exclamation marks. Theyare books for the people who need the TV ads every 9 minutes, because otherwise there is too much to remember….and they need the brief summary that is always delivered after the frequent ad breaks. The only reason I have ever tried to read more than one of these books is because there was nothing else in the hotel ‘library’. Stay away.

  4. So loved reading your list and was surprised to see only 2 titles I know……The 3 Cups of Tea book, ( which I haven’t read, he seemed a little earnest and self-righteous to me.) And the Eat, Pray Love book. Not a huge fan of that one either the equivalent of literary cotton candy. All whipped up, with no content.

    But based on your list of likes and descriptions might I make a few suggestions to try?

    1. Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love & Betrayal. Absolutely could not put this down! If the story had not been so well researched I would have thought it a novel, you can just not make this up.
    2. The City of Falling Angels. This was recommended to me before a trip to Venice and it is well written and informative in a gossipy Vanity Fair sort of way. Not great literature but one that entertains and makes you feel like an insider when you arrive.

    I read all the time but these are 2 of my most recent “likes”. PS. am jet-lagged and this my sleep aid…..not normally up at this ungodly hour!

      1. Would second Agent Zigzag – a fab book! I have spoken to the author (whilst slightly tipsy…) and told him who I thought should play the hero (at great length…poor man) when he admitted that the film rights had been sold.

  5. Although I’ve spent a v. enjoyable time catching up on all your Dec/Jan posts, while I’ve let my grey matter atrophy over the festive season. Cheers m’dear.

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